Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Kingfishers Catch Fire” as Want to Read:
Kingfishers Catch Fire
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Kingfishers Catch Fire

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  230 ratings  ·  34 reviews
Sophie, a young English woman with two children, goes to set up home in fabulous Kashmir, finding a tumbled-down house in a valley carpeted with flowers below the Himalayas. Settling down to live there she is blissfully ignorant of the turmoil that her arrival produces. Sophies cook is finally prompted to take action and the consequences of his innocent plotting are catast ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published March 8th 2002 by Pan (first published 1953)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Kingfishers Catch Fire, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Kingfishers Catch Fire

The God of Small Things by Arundhati RoyThe White Tiger by Aravind AdigaA Fine Balance by Rohinton MistryShantaram by Gregory David RobertsMidnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
173rd out of 433 books — 560 voters
A Passage to India by E.M. ForsterThe Far Pavilions by M.M. KayeThe Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. FarrellKim by Rudyard KiplingThe God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Excellent Books about India and England
122nd out of 185 books — 185 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 436)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
I do think Rumer Godden is an excellent writer – her depictions of childhood in novels such as Greengage Summer, The River and Breakfast with the Nikolides are extraordinarily vivid. While her novels of British life in India such as Coromandel Sea Change and The Peacock Spring mean I always associate her with India, although not all her novels are set there. She was a prolific writer, and so I still have many to read, I am thankful to say. Kingfishers Catch fire was obviously written in the wake ...more
Quasi-autobiographical, Kingfishers Catch Fire is strange, moving, and terrifying in parts. It's slighter than some of her novels, recounting the eighteen months Godden spent in near-total poverty in a house in Kashmir, but bracingly honest when it comes to describing the relationship between the British, post-Raj, and the independent State. She also doesn't hold back in describing the cruelty that children can visit upon each other, something I've always appreciated about her work.

"In India a woman alone does not go and live alone – not, at any rate, far from her own kind, not unless she is a saint or a great sinner. Sophie was not a saint, or a sinner, but she was undeniably a woman."

So begins the novel, Kingfishers Catch Fire, by British author Rummer Godden (1907-1998). Godden grew up in India and used her experiences as a background for this novel. Kingfishers is the story of Sophie Barrington Ward who takes her two children to live in Kashmir. Her husband, a British
What a brilliant book about responsibility. The child has a sense of it, her mother does not. In a "whatever", "go-with-the-flow" way, the mother is unintentionally quite dangerous. A subtle and precise portrait of negligent parenting.
I could not believe this was written sixty years ago. To me, it read like contemporary fiction: an independent woman takes on a vainglorious project and has endless miscommunications due to her lack of cultural awareness. I first heard about the book in a BBC documentary about the author where she discussed the real life drama that inspired the book. So I knew where it was going.

I don’t know if I’ve ever read a novel with an omniscient narrator who is as unlimited as this one. There is a lot of
Brendan Hodge
Set in 1950s Kashmir, the novel chronicles roughly a year in the life of a young widow and her two children, as she tries to life off the pension of her late husband (who worked in the Indian colonial civil service) by renting a cottage in a small mountain village and living as the only Europeans in the town. Godden drew on her own experiences living in Kashmir, the book has a strong sense of place and does a good job of drawing out the tensions between the various native and colonial cultures, ...more
Feb 20, 2015 Susan added it
I enjoyed this book and although I found the main a bit naive she was very believable ad I did feel for her. I loved the descriptions of Kashmir and the local characters were very lively and interesting. It is an older book so a little dated in some ways but that was part of its charm.

Sophie's innocence that lead to all the problems was of her time. Her total misunderstanding of the local ways was because she didn't really belong to either the memsahib whites not to the locals and was scorned by
In the early 1950's, an expat Brit facing boredom and penury decamps from India with her two children to a remote town in Kashmir. As the consummate romantic outsider with the best intentions, she wreaks havoc on the village and her family. This semi-autobiographical novel is beautifully written with honesty and lyrical descriptions of the Kashmiri landscape.
I loved this book. Especially so knowing that it was quite autobiographical and echoed a time in the authors life. It did sweep me to the time and place and I really felt for the main character trying to do so much but failing due to a total lack of understanding of the nuances in a culture very different to her own and the damage that can be done as a result.
I have to be honest; I did start this book (and read only a chapter) a few weeks ago and I just found it really hard to follow, so I left it and now i've come back to it again.

The setting is in Himalayan Kashmir and there is use of old English and Indian words or phrases which I don't quite understand as I am English. Maybe this is why i'm not following it... I will try to continue to read this book, but I really don't think I will be continuing it much longer if it doesn't get more exciting.

I m
I willed myself to like this book, about a woman bringing up her children in rural, colonial Kashmir, and her relationships with the people around her. As hard as I tried, I just couldn't. I nearly gave up on it about 3 times, but am ultimately glad I persevered, just about. Nothing happens for the first 200 pages which I waded my way through, but if I'd given up then, I would have missed the only part that has any plot. It does get better towards the end and so has 2 stars instead of just 1.
Kate North
Another of Godden's India books. Like the other I've read (Black Narcissus) this is poignantly drawn; a portrait of someone touching and endearing and at the same time, desperately, worryingly naive and headed for disaster. These books are beautifully written, and while a bit old fashioned, not in a bad way.
Skylar Hatfield
It took me a little time to open up to this book. The style was different from what I had recently read, and I wan't ready to work at reading. The book is worth the work, however. This book may make you want to travel to India. It opened my mind to adventure. This is not a travelogue. The beautifully described setting is Kashmir, and Kashmir culture is a topic of the story. The book is more about the realities we build for ourselves, our interpretation of culture, our desire for freedom and dign ...more
It's been ages since I have read Rumer Godden and found this on the shelf in the library. Set in Kashmir it's the story of a very stubborn, and sometimes irritating, Englishwoman who takes her children to live away from the ex- pat community. She makes the presumption that she can change things for the better, which generally happened wherever the English went, and tragedy strikes when her family's presence upsets the balance of the village. Rumer Godden's descriptions are masterful and her desc ...more
I loved this book! The setting is picturesque, if not exotic. The writing is deceptively simple for such a complex theme. I have a great interest in learning about other cultures through fiction. Godden captures the difficulty of getting along and living well in a culture that has very different values than one's own. The main character, Sophie, puts the lie to the old adage, "It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you are sincere." Sophie is nothing if not sincere. She is also dangerousl ...more
Debbie Cresswell
This Godden's most autobiographical novel and it helps to read the introduction if your copy as it. This makes most of the events understandable. It requires careful reading as some happenings can slip past without realising and then you find yourself turning back.
Sally Ryan
I could see my younger idealistic self in Sophie, blundering about trying to work in cultures so different than my own. I loved her growth in seeing her blunders, yet maintaining respect for and caring for all kinds of people. Lovely wrong, transported me into worlds I may never see.
Sara Klinges
Another wonderful book by the greatly talented Rumer Godden. I love how her books have endings that are open to interpretation!! Her writing is so beautiful that I feel as if I am right there seeing the action of the story as it happens.
A young, stubborn englishwoman with her two little children moves to Kashmir and rents a house on a mountainside. While trying to live an idyllic existence amidst her orchards, flowers and beautiful vistas she inadvertently causes a serious catastrophe that affects her family and the families of all the villagers. By carefully ignorning social customs, glossing over errors she makes in how she interacts with local people and children, she just reinforces, in my mind, the caucasian trait (or mayb ...more
Russell James
Sophie chooses to rent a house in a lonely Kashmiri village, in which she and her two young children will live. The events magically, then tragically, unfold.
Sep 03, 2014 astried marked it as hummmm
Nov 28, 2008 Kyra rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Katie, Emma, Juliet, Julia
I first read this when I was about 13 and I re-read it every 10 years or so. Rumer Godden is one of the great unsung writers of the English language. Her books are exquisitely plotted, beautifully written and push & pull your emotions around. She almost always uses the perspective of children to balance the adult plots, and she does so to great effect.
I highly recommend absolutely anything written by Rumer Godden who was a fascinating woman in her own right as well as a superb writer. I only
Really interesting book about a woman raising two children in Kashmir in the 50s. Very progressive, but I found the main character super-annoying about 50% of the time.
Clare Bear
Jan 06, 2008 Clare Bear rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Clare by: Mother
Rumer Goddens's female protagonists are always left of centre individuals with their own ideas on how to live.

Sophie, mother of two, takes her children with her to live in Kashmir, and this story is how she naively and bravely attempts not only to survive as a widowed white woman in a tribal village - but to blossom as well; to engage the village; to be engaged.

Sophie made mistakes, but she tried.

I enjoyed this work because Sophie never gave up, or settled for anything less than what she really
Rosie Amber
As a very young child, I remember seeing this book on my mother's bookshelf. The exotic authors name and the title promised a great story within the covers, however I remember being so disappointed that the book was for adults and had no pictures! How could anyone read a book without pictures? Now as an adult I've read the book and conjured my own pictures in my mind of kashmir and the people. It tells of one woman's desire to live amongst the local people and how she struggled to fit in and be ...more
I think this is probably a 3.5 star book, in my opinion. I like the style of writing and the setting. Some of the characters (particularly Sophie, the main character) are rather infuriating, but may be true to form for people of their time. It's a period and place that I know very little about and for this reason I found the story engaging. The descriptions of the landscape and its people are beautiful.
This book begins ridiculously slowly and I've never been a theme of the British-in-India scenario as a good plotline (take that, A Little Princess!). However once I finally managed to get interested in it (a good way through the book) this develops into a piece of Rumer Godden genius. I would recommend skimming the first bit, nothing much happens.
Although not my favorite of Godden's novels, this story is, as all of hers are, well-told and interesting in content. Another look at multicultural society, this time from the mid 20th century in India. Somewhat dated now (published in 1953) it nevertheless has lessons we all can learn and put to use today.
It's the first novel I have read by this author & I thoroughly enjoyed it. The main character Sophie is deeply flawed but I can't help liking her inspite of this. The setting is beautiful & the writing a pleasure to read, I look forward to reading more of her books.
Sep 27, 2012 Jan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
Interesting story, beautifully written. Writing style takes some getting used to, but worth it to persevere. Written in 1953, still politically important.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 14 15 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Two Under the Indian Sun
  • The Mandelbaum Gate
  • Towers in the Mist
  • The Flight from the Enchanter
  • Sisters By a River
  • Period Piece
  • French Country Cooking
  • Mrs. 'Arris Goes to New York
  • The Garrick Year
  • Myself When Young
  • A Whispered Name (Father Anselm, #3)
  • Shades
  • Fairy Tale
  • Dark Quartet: The Story of the Brontës
  • My Brilliant Career / My Career Goes Bung
  • Shadrach
  • Smith
  • The Rector's Daughter
She was born in Sussex, England, but grew up in India, in Narayanganj. Many of her 60 books are set in India. Black Narcissus was made into a famous movie with Deborah Kerr in 1947.

Godden wrote novels, poetry, plays, biographies, and books for children.

For more information, see the official website: Rumer Godden
More about Rumer Godden...
The Story of Holly and Ivy In This House of Brede The Dolls' House The Greengage Summer Miss Happiness and Miss Flower

Share This Book

“Why do religions have edges?" asked Teresa....
"God is here," said the printed text on the wall. "Yes," said Sophie. "But," she asked, "isn't He everywhere? Then why do they make Him little?" And she thought of those edges, pressing against each other, hurting, jarring, offending, barring one human being from another, shutting away their understanding and their souls.
Yet if you have no edges, thought Sophie, how lonely, how drifting, you must consent to be.”
“Nabir came out to drive the children away, but she stopped him. "I like to be friendly she said."
"But they are not your friends," said Nabir. "You don't know them."
"Respect first," Nabir would have said if he could have explained, "friendship after.”
More quotes…